Welcome to October. After a Montreal September that was record-setting in terms of high temperatures, more above average conditions are forecast for October. Great for enjoying all those wonderful October events: Apple picking, Canadian Thanksgiving, post-season Major League Baseball – including of course the World Series – Halloween and … well … a Canadian federal election. Four out of five isn’t too bad.
The campaign, one of the longest in Canadian history, began in August, a time when most people were still chilling while on summer vacation. But I guess we can’t put it off any longer. It’s time to shift our focus north from the Cirque du Trump in the US that has been providing entertainment if not logic for the past several weeks, and pay attention to an election that we can actually have a say in.
Polls indicate a very close race heading into the last 19 days of the campaign. I figure the best place to start is by having a gander at the party leaders. The current Prime Minister is Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC). He was first elected PM in 2006 albeit with a minority which he would grow into a majority in 2011.
The CPC is the latest incarnation of Canada’s version of conservatism. In another era there was the Progressive Conservative Party; sounding a bit oxymoronic, it was an attempt to lure liberal voters, and it worked. The CPC has its roots in the Reform Party, a Christian-based party from Western Canada that looked more like a US right wing party than Canadian conservatives.
Mr Harper is himself a conservative Christian, but he manages to keep it quiet if not hidden. For some this is good, while others see him as being sneaky about imposing his religious views on the nation.
We don’t have a tradition of attack ads in Canadian politics, yet the CPC has been running a TV spot in which a group of Canadians is apparently looking over resumes of potential Prime Ministers. Regarding Justin Trudeau, they conclude that they won’t say no forever, in fact ‘Justin’ may one day be a suitable candidate, but for now he’s ‘just not ready’! Ain’t that vicious? It seems to me that if you are going to run an ad that puts your opponent down rather than one that illustrates your strengths, then you should actually put him down, not point out that he may one day be a good candidate.
Then there is the Liberal Party of Canada under the leadership of Justin Trudeau. He is the son of longtime Canadian Prime Minister the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Trudeau pere was a brilliant if divisive leader. His popularity in the east was matched by the dislike he invoked in westerners. Of course as a staunch federalist, he was also reviled by those in Quebec who wanted an independent state. Often referred to as Canada’s natural governing party, having been in power more than any other party, the Liberals are facing some stiff competition from the NDP. Mr. Trudeau is clearly not his father, and to expect he will live up to that specter is unrealistic. He is, however, young which may help or hinder him. Only time will tell.
Finally we have the New Democratic Party (NDP), the traditional third-place finisher. As close to a socialist party as we come in Canada. The leader is Thomas Mulcair, a fluently bilingual lawyer from Montreal. I worked with Mulcair for a short time during the eighties; he was clearly bright, and driven, if a wee bit arrogant. He seems to be keeping that in check, and is a hit on the campaign trail. His party is, for the most part, scandal-free, if only because they have never been in power.
My opinion: it is time for a change, and a return to true Canadian values, which I believe are best represented by either the Liberal party or the NDP.